Maine lawmakers last month quietly passed a non-binding resolution backing the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline has become political fodder during the U.S. presidential campaign season and the Maine Senate, along partisan lines, said it was time to lend its voice to the contentious debate. Left out of the Senate debate, however, were controversial plans for a similar pipeline planned to deliver oil to ports in their very own state. And it's an election year.
For critics of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Keystone XL has come to represent the panacea for perceived problems with domestic energy policy. The current political debate over the project, proposed in 2008, has taken on mythological proportions with backers claiming it would resolve many of the economic and foreign policy problems in the United States. Behind the political furor, the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada, said it was moving forward with the domestic leg of the project, which would ease the bottleneck at the Cushing, Okla., storage hub, the main point for U.S. crude oil traded on the futures market.
In Maine, some 1,700 miles away from Cushing, Okla., Senate lawmakers bickered for close to an hour over a non-binding resolution on the Keystone XL pipeline. It passed 17-15 along partisan lines. Supporters of the measure went to so far as to say building the pipeline would do everything from securing the United States from terrorists to staving off $5 per gallon gasoline. Opponents said their counterparts were using state legislative to take a swipe at Obama, noting many of the statements made in support of the pipeline were at best misrepresented or outright false.
Earlier this year, Portland Pipeline Corp. decided it was abandoning plans to reverse the flow of an 18-inch pipeline so it would carry oil from Montreal to South Portland, Maine. A week before the Maine Senate took up the Keystone Xl measure, which holds no legal water, Larry Wilson, president of Portland's counterpart Montreal Pipeline Ltd., was saying the reversal was no longer viable "due to economic and market conditions." That means Maine lawmakers spent an hour in formal session wrangling over of Keystone XL rather than debating a similar pipeline planned through their own state.
Keystone XL won't travel through Maine. But it's an election year in Maine, where someone has to fill the seat left vacant by retiring GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe. With a few short months before the June primary, it seems most Maine voters are opting for the middle ground -- literally. Most voters, pollsters found, favor handing Snowe's long-held seat over to former Independent Gov. Angus King. With that in mind, it's time to whip out the hot-button issues from gay marriage to Keystone XL apparently. And in the age of super PACs, even King's independence is in doubt ahead of the November vote. Though nothing's certain in a political debate, it seems that when emotions, money and big oil are at stake, even Maine's heralded political pragmatism is in jeopardy.
By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com